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      Kingsley grad crowned Cherry Festival Queen

      The National Cherry Festival is wrapping up, but it's the only the beginning for one special young woman.

      Chelsea Lajko starts her reign as the 2014-2015 Cherry Festival Queen after being crowned Friday night.

      It was a big night for four ladies vying to become the face of the National Cherry Festival for the next year.

      Lajko, 24, says it's been her dream since she was a little girl.

      â??Every year I watched the Queen impact the lives of people in her community and it was something that I always knew I wanted to do, and I wanted to do the same,â?? said Lajko, a 2008 Kingsley High School graduate.

      After a moment of suspense, her dream came true as her name was announced.

      â??The 2014 and 2015 National Cherry Festival Queen is and will always be Chelsea Lajko.â??

      Lajko accepted the duties of the National Cherry Festival Queen along with the flowers and the crown.

      â??It feels a little heavy, like I have big shoes to fill,â?? said Lajko.

      Those shoes belong to outgoing queen Sonya Sayler.

      â??I'm so grateful for this experience,â?? said Sayler. â??Iâ??ve just been reflecting today and this past week on this amazing year. Our friendships have grown stronger each day and we're really a sisterhood now.â??

      Over the past month, the candidates were narrowed down from 18 to four. The girls are put to the test during the festival leading up to the big night.

      â??During the week of the Cherry Festival they are scrutinized at every event and they are all over town,â?? explained David Barr, National Cherry Festival President. â??People are watching them and that's ultimately how the decision is made.â??

      The four candidates all get scholarships. Queen Chelsea Lajko is awarded $8,250.

      â??I am so thrilled to represent this region this industry and this festival. It really is a dream come true and I'm so grateful for it,â?? said Lajko.

      Alyssa Veliquette from Elk Rapids earned the title of first runner up. She'll take home $1,750.

      Stasha Yancho and Elise Zagore will both receive $1,250 scholarships.

      Sonya Sayler has plans for her down time.

      â??I want to promote the health benefits of cherries and continue to work on the family farm and tie it all together and do what I love,â?? said Sayler.

      Sayler will be co-emceeing the Cherry Royale Parade Saturday.

      â??The festival truly doesn't roll out the red carpet for these ladies and the festival rolls out the red carpet for all of the people that they're welcoming and all the guests and visitors we have here,â?? said Lajko. â??It makes you so grateful for where you came from. I would like to thank all of the farmers, and all the people that are involved because they truly are this is a celebration of their work.â??